God knows our primordial shame. God is always sewing garments of love and protection to cover our immense and intense sense of unworthiness.
Jesus’ message is incredibly subversive in any honor/shame society. As he takes away old foundations, he offers a new, more solid one: neither shame-based nor guilt-based but based in who we are in God—a beloved child. Our identity is no longer dependent on the estimation of our culture or even on our own estimation of ourselves.
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No matter how much we strive for purity in our minds, bodies, spirits, or ideologies, purity is not the same as holiness. It’s just easier to define what is pure than what is holy, so we pretend they are interchangeable.
We now believe the reason that the Apostle Paul enjoyed such immense success in such a short time is that he gave human dignity back to a world that had largely lost it. One more god in Greece and Asia Minor would have meant little, but when Paul told shamed populations they were temples of the divine, this made hearts burn with desire and hope.
When we risk sharing what hurts the most in the presence of someone who will not invade us or abandon us, we can come upon within ourselves the pearl of great price, the invincible preciousness of ourselves in the midst of our brokenness.
Remembering I Am God’s Beloved Child
Father Richard encourages us to pray when we find ourselves questioning our worthiness:
Every time you are tempted to hate yourself, just think, “Who am I?” The answer will be: “I am hidden with Christ in God” (see Colossians 3:3) in every part of my life. In Christ, I am bearing the mystery of the suffering of humanity, its sad woundedness; yet I am also bearing the very glory of God, and even “sharing in the Divine Nature” (see 2 Peter 1:4). I am a living paradox of Divine and human, just as Jesus is. Jesus fully accepted, enjoyed, and drew upon that identity.
It seems that God insists on looking at what is good in me, what is God in me, and of course always finds it entirely lovable. God fixes God’s gaze intently where I refuse and fear to look—on my shared, Divine Nature as God’s beloved child (see 1 John 3:2). And one day my gaze meets God’s gaze (that is what we mean by both conversion and prayer). At those times I will find God fully lovable and myself fully lovable at the same time. Why? Because it is the same gaze, but they have become one and look out at life together.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, A Spring within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations (Albuquerque, NM: CAC Publishing, 2016), 290.
Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Exercise in Grief and Lamentation credits from left to right: Unknown, Jessie Jones, Jennifer Tompos. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.
On retreat, the CAC staff used watercolors to connect to our collective grief. This is one of the watercolor paintings that came from that exercise.